Coronary Heart Disease and Ischemic Stroke Risk Predicted

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Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women in the United States, with nearly 460,000 cardiovascular disease (CVD) deaths occurring annually. Stroke, another form of cardiovascular disease, is the third leading cause of death in the United States which is causing a lot of concern to millions of women across the country.

According to the American Heart Association, nearly fifty-five million Americans over the age of 40, about 18 percent of the American population, are at increased risk for developing coronary heart disease (CHD) in their lifetime. One third of all strokes occurs in people less than or equal to 65 years of age.

Patients that survive a heart attack or stroke are then at risk for another cardiac event. In fact, according to the American Heart Association of the estimated 770,000 coronary events forecasted this year nearly 60% of these patients will suffer a recurrent event. With obesity at an all time high in the United States and heart disease being the number cause of death, it is imperative that people educate themselves on their risks for life threatening incidents.

Often times the first sign of cardiac event is the event itself, which is why finding out one’s hidden risk is so important. There are several factors that raise a person’s risk of a heart attack and stroke, including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, smoking and physical inactivity. The more risk factors a patient has the greater the risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Some risk factors are inherent and can not be changed, such as increasing age, family history, and gender. Several risk factors, however, can be addressed with lifestyle changes such as exercise and diet, as well as medications.

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Many mistakenly believe that heart attacks occur as a result of clogged arteries or plaque buildup (stenosis). In fact, approximately 68 percent of coronary events are caused by plaque rupture and thrombosis. Thrombosis occurs when unstable plaque enters the blood stream and causes blood clots that block the coronary or carotid arteries resulting in a heart attack or stroke.

Fortunately, there is a simple new blood test that goes beyond traditional risk factors to help identify patients at increased risk of heart disease and stroke. The PLAC® Test is the only FDA-cleared blood test that aids in assessing risk for both coronary heart disease and ischemic stroke associated with atherosclerosis. The PLAC Test measures levels of the risk marker lipoprotein-associated phospholipase A2 (Lp-PLA2), a cardiovascular-specific inflammatory enzyme implicated in the formation of vulnerable, rupture-prone plaque. Used in conjunction with the clinical evaluation of traditional risk factors, the PLAC Test helps identify people who may not be identified by traditional risk factors and who may benefit from more aggressive treatment programs, as necessary.

While risk factor identification remains one of the most important approaches to preventing cardiovascular disease, traditional risk factors fail to identify many people at risk. In fact, approximately 50 percent of all coronary events strike people with low-to-moderate cholesterol levels, and about 20 percent occur in individuals with none of the four major risk factors (high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking, or diabetes). Therefore, hidden or additional cardiovascular risk factors are likely to be common and there is a critical need to identify all patients at-risk.

Patients at increased risk for coronary heart disease are candidates for aggressive treatment programs, such as lifestyle modification, including an exercise program and a healthy diet, and therapeutic intervention, including statin drugs and daily aspirin. According to the American Heart Association, the costs for treating heart disease increased markedly between 2000 and 2004, from $62 billion to $90 billion and the estimated direct and indirect costs associated with strokes for 2008 is $65.5 billion. Preventing a heart attack or stroke before it occurs, can help save money and a piece of mind.

If you think you might be at risk for heart disease, talk to your doctor and ask if you may be a candidate for the PLAC test. To learn more, visit www.plactest.com.

Written by Dr. Leonard Moss. He is a Board Certified Internist and Cardiologist practicing at The Medical Institute of New Jersey and can be reached at 973-267-2122.

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